Comedians Imran Yusof and Paul Ogata tell why it’s important to have fun during live performances
IN a roomful of eager audience members, even the most experienced of comedians can make mistakes on stage. For those who perform live, making blunders and feeling embarrassed about them are quite normal.
Kenya-born English stand-up comedian Imran Yusof is used to such occurrences.
Instead of mulling over the missteps, he embraces them, throws his head back and laughs out loud.
After 13 years in the stand-up comedy business, Yusof finds it much easier to laugh about his errors now than when he first started.
“I used to feel very bad and rushed through my set, hoping to quickly get off the stage. But these days, I enjoy it and even laugh at myself. If I start off doing badly now, I perversely enjoy it,” he says, before breaking into a thunderous laugh.
The comedian was in Kuala Lumpur recently, where he performed at the two-day Comedy Central Stand-Up, Asia! show as part of the Asian comedy invasion event.
Apart from Yusof, 15 other comedians also showed off their comic skills, including Paul Ogata (US/Japan), Eliot Chang (US), Papa CJ (India), Garron Chiu (Hong Kong), Alex Calleja (Philippines), Dilruk Jayashina (Sri Lanka/Australia), Jason Leong (Malaysia) and Sharul Channa (Singapore).
As the comedians (eight comedians each night) took to the mic, it was filmed in front of a live audience. For those who missed the show, you can catch it again when it premieres on Comedy Central (HyppTv Channel 609) on Tuesday.
HANGING OUT WITH FUNNY PEOPLE
Those who saw Yusof on stage would have noticed his cool, laid-back style. Known as a skillful raconteur who can seamlessly weave socio-political satire with heartfelt introspection, it has not been an easy journey for him.
There were hard-knock lessons along the way but Yusof eventually learnt what worked on stage and what didn’t.
His secret? Hang out with fellow comedians who are better than himself.
“That’s the golden rule in being a comedian. One of the UK’s most successful comedians, Ian Stone, said that to me. He also advised me to always remember to have fun because if you’re having fun, your audience will too. I never got that until much later,” he says.
It’s rare to have a comedian performing to a crowd who remain silent throughout. But when it does happen, it’s up to the performer to save himself from the awkward situation.
“It’s very rare that no one laughs. You may get one or two in the crowd laughing at your joke, while the rest stay silent because they don’t get you. But you make some adjustments and hopefully, you’ll win them back,” he says.
Yusof adds that comedy is a form of art and one must be willing to expose oneself and take the brickbats.
“You can stand in your bathroom and talk to your hairbrush. But you’re not going to get to where you want to be. You have to go up on the stage, do it for real and get better at it, no matter what. That’s the only way to go,” says the comedian who completed his third solo act, Super Roar Of The Underdog Turbo X: HD Remix, at the Edinburgh Festival in 2015.
As Yusof slowly builds his reputation in the comic world, there are moments when he wishes that people would stop comparing him to others.
“Even though I look up to other comedians like Chris Rock and admire them, I am still who I am. I am the first me.”
HAVING SOMETHING TO SAY
For fellow comedian Paul Ogata, performing in this part of the world reminds him of his home in Hawaii.
“Malaysia is like home, the weather and even the friendly people. But what strikes me the most is how the comedy scene here has grown so rapidly.”
He adds that Southeast Asia is entering what he calls the “golden era of stand-up comedies”.
“Everywhere I go, whether its Malaysia or Singapore, or even India, the comedy scene is exploding. And then you have artistes from various background coming out and speaking about things that matter to them, which is good news,” he adds.
An award-winning comedian, Ogata is one of America’s leading comedy exports.
After a successful career as a top-rated morning radio personality in Hawaii, he left his island home for Los Angeles in 2006.
Shortly thereafter, he won the 32nd Annual San Francisco International Comedy Competition, putting him in an exclusive line with the likes of Dana Carvey, Doug Stanhope and other comedy greats.
On TV, Ogata has made numerous appearances, including on The Late Late Show, Comedy Central’s Live At Gotham and Comics Unleashed. He also has his own show, Pacific Rim Comedy.
Ogata has gone from performing in his own backyard to travelling to more than 40 countries.
One career highlight was performing on the back of a truck for Spanish and Italian soldiers in war-torn Afghanistan.
“That’s the beauty of being a stand-up comedian. It’s always nice to see people exploding into laughter. Whatever we do onstage is a reflection of who we are in real life. Luckily for me, there are a lot of things going on in my life right now, which allows me to talk about them onstage. I feel that my life as a comedian is a special thing,” he adds.
Catch Comedy Central Stand-Up, Asia!, which airs every Tuesday, at 8.55pm on Comedy Central (HyppTV channel 609), beginning Aug 22.